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his hand on the bottle, spins a long yarn, and makes no joke without an explanation ; and then the mother begins; and then an old grandmother puts in her talk; and then another old fellow, with a husky voice, the grandmother's father, begins; and then another old lady, who calls him her darling pet. But the poor guest has to sit, and try to look intelligent all the while."*
These details, which could be greatly multiplied, did time permit, may seem trifling, but are quoted to show the delicacy of social feeling among the Greeks of this period. The refinement and graces of what we call society begin to occupy men's chief attention.f Those lesser actions and sentiments, which we describe under the general title of good breeding, and which cannot be explained but by examples, assume a place more important than morals, and more interesting than politics or public affairs. There can be no doubt that Menander, were he raised from the dead, and introduced into the best modern society, would rapidly adapt himself to his altered circumstances, and take his place as a refined and elegant gentleman.
And yet all these gracious manners, all this bene
* Menander, frag. incert. 17.
+ Here is a fragment of Apollodorus—“When you go to visit a friend at his house, you can perceive his friendliness the moment you enter the door, for first the servant who opens the door looks pleased, then the dog wags its tail and comes up to you, and the first person you meet hands you a chair, before any one has said a word.”
volent temper, all this consideration for the poor and the afflicted, are the result of a philosophy, not of hope, but of despair. For though, even in the previous generation, men still believed in the pursuit of pleasure, and said with the Preacher, that "there is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labour," though they then still essayed to dispel the increasing gloom by the glare of revelry and the noise of riot ; yet now the faith, even in that miserable substitute, was gone. They said of laughter, it is mad, and of mirth, what doeth it? They had seen all the works that were done under the sun; all was vanity and vexation of spirit; and their highest hope is to escape from life as soon and as quietly as they can. “Old age," they exclaim, “ends in no pleasant death. Those whom the gods love die young.” “Were the gods to come and say to me: When thou diest, thou must again return to life ; be what thou wilt--a dog, a sheep, a goat, a horse, a man, for once more must thou live ; 'tis fated, now therefore choose thee what thou wilt. Forthwith I think that I should answer them ; anything you will, except a man, for he alone is unjustly allotted his pleasure and his pain. The better horse is more cared for than the worse ; if a hound be good, he has more honour than the worthless cur ; a noble cock is better fed, and lives to terrify his worthless fellow. But let a man be good, well-born and noble, it serves him nothing in the present day. The flatterer fares best of all; next comes the sycophant, and then the villain. Better were it to become an ass than to behold the wicked your superiors in the world.”*
But the notion of another existence makes a very small figure in the practical philosophy of the age, and is generally regarded as an idle and imaginary hypothesis. This is the real cause of the melancholy in even the lighter literature of the day. For while men's views of life were sad and hopeless, the presence of death seems to suggest to them no thing but oblivion and decay. “Wilt thou know what thou art, look upon the monuments of the dead, as thou journeyest by the way. In them there are bones and idle dust of men that were kings, and tyrants, and the wise, and who esteemed themselves for birth and fortune, for their glory and the beauty of their persons. But of all these things none did save them from the hand of time, for here all mortals have a common fate. Look upon these, and know thyself what thou art.” | There is here no hope of a future world ; no expectation of a higher existence. To the Greeks, indeed, of an earlier generation, the strong instinct of immortality had whispered, as it does to us, with its magic tones. The disappointed Euripides had darkly felt it, and had longed bitterly for annihilation, while the loftier Plato had caught its music clearly with his finer sense. But the false religions and the faded prospects of the race had jarred in discord with its subtle chords, and drowned the voice of its higher inspiration. To us, indeed, when blighted with sorrow and disappointment, when the
* Menander. Menander, frag. incert. 9.
world is passing away as a vapour, to us too it is possible to look upon earthly things with the indifference and the scorn that embittered the reflections of the gentle Menander; but to us again that strange instinct whispers immortality, and the oracles of our faith do but increase the harmony, when they declare the promises of a future glory. Far different, therefore, are the words of the Christian poet, even though he utters almost the same lament :
“Even soe is Time who takes on trust
When we have wandered all our wayes,
Makes up the story of our dayes.
POSTSCRIPT. THE narrow limits of time within which a lecturer is obliged to treat so large a subject, compelled me to omit altogether the social aspect of Greek education, perhaps the most interesting and important part of their civilization; and the nature of the audience made it inconvenient to discuss the social refinement which did exist among ladies at Athens. Much as I regret these omissions, it was preferable to pass them over in perfect silence than to waste time in apologies.
Lest the text should be encumbered with foot-notes, there are only added sufficient references to show that the original authorities have been throughout consulted, and that no unwarranted inferences have been drawn from them.